When you have to make someone redundant

In a previous article, I wrote for those who are experiencing being made redundant.  Today, I want to write about our responsibilities when we are the other side of the desk. If you are in a leadership position, then there is going to come a day when you will face the prospect of having to make others redundant. Some of you will be facing that now and some of you are having to face it in the context of church leadership. That’s doubly hard because you never agreed to be a church leader in order to make people redundant. Here are some thoughts and words of advise whether you are having to make the tough decisions in the church or in the secular workplace.

First, those of us who lead should lead by example in the difficult things.  We shouldn’t ask of others what we are not willing to have asked of us.  That’s why, I have always made it clear even as we started to take on more workers that I should be the first person to take the hit when it came to redundancy or pay cuts. We should not expect those who work for us to sacrifice their economic well-being if we have not been prepared to make sacrifices first.

Second, be up front and honest with people, both with those at risk and others in the organisation. In a church situation this means that whilst the language of redundancy sounds harsh and unspiritual, if that is what you are likely to have to do, then tell people that this is what you are doing, so make sure there is clarity. Don’t attempt to sugar coat the issue. 

Third, don’t give people false hope about what might be possible.  Once you’ve hit the consultation klaxon, there is rarely a way back. At that stage, even if there is a turnaround in fortunes it is unlikely to come quickly enough to avert the job losses. This means we also need to be careful in ensuring that we have fully understood the situation.

This is also because fourthly, once you let someone know that they are at risk, they then need to start making plans for their future. They know that in all likelihood that in a few months they will be out of a job and unless they’ve worked for you for a very long time and on a high salary or you have particularly generous redundancy terms over and above the statutory requirements, then they will need to find something fairly quickly.  So, those who are able to will start looking.  Please give them the freedom to do so and to be open about it.  Don’t try to hold on to them until the last minute.

At the same time, fifthly, it is not their fault that redundancy has hit. This means that they should not be put in a situation where the expectation is on them to find the solutions.

Sixth, make sure you know and stick within the law. Stay firmly within the law and don’t push the boundaries. Know what your responsibilities lie. This also does include having an awareness of the different criteria depending on the size of the organisation and number of at risk people.  Attempting to follow the gold plated requirements for a large organisation when you only have one or two employees may tie you up in knots, not particularly help the employee and cause unnecessary damage to relationships.

Seventh, don’t allow other issues to get conflated with the redundancy question. This is important legally but also for the well-being and relationships with others. Don’t wait for a redundancy situation to enable you to quietly get rid of the troublesome employee. However, at the same time once you enter the redundancy period, the only issue that should be at the front of your minds is the financial short fall.  It is important that this does not become a moment when other issues and tensions are raised -and because we are all human, it is highly unlikely that any of us will enter a redundancy context where no-one will have anything against us. But we should really keep short accounts and deal with such things well in advance.

Eight, whilst you know that you are not being malicious and deep down, those being made redundant know that too, remember that you are inflicting a deep and painful wound on someone. It will hurt and have lasting effects for a long time.  Be ready for an angry, emotional response, be ready to experience significant strain in relationships.  Don’t take it personally.

Ninth, because you have people who are now deeply wounded, they are going to need help and support going forward. Even though you are a Christian and even though in some contexts, this will be sadly something happening within the church, you need to remember that you are the one who wielded the knife.  You are not going to be the one who is in a position to provide that support.  So plan how you will ensure that pastoral care, support, advice, retraining etc will be provided.

Tenth, don’t lose sight of God’s love and grace to you.  Don’t become overwhelmed with guilt and shame yourself. It is very rarely the case that those having to make and communicate the redundancy decisions are personally to blame for situation.  Remember that God loves you.  Recognise too that even as you’ve had to wield that knife that you too are likely to have been wounded in the process. Make sure that there is pastoral support for you too in the aftermath.

I hope that most of my readers don’t find themselves in the situation of either being made redundant or having to make others redundant. However, if you do, I hope that these two articles will prove helpful to you

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